Monday, May 15, 2006
Policy is just another word for politics
And Paul Krugman has a nice layout of the policytics that Our Dear Embattled Leader used to set "crown jewel" of his maladministration, Medicare Part D.
Today is the last day to sign up for Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit. It appears that millions of Americans, confused by the array of competing plans or simply unaware of the cutoff date, will miss the deadline. This will leave them without drug coverage for the rest of the year, and subject to financial penalties for the rest of their lives. President Bush refuses to extend the sign-up period. ''Deadlines,'' he said last week, ''help people understand there's finality, and people need to get after it, you know?'' His real objection to extending the deadline is probably that this would be an implicit admission that his administration botched the program's start-up. And Mr. Bush never, ever admits mistakes.And after taking us through the cruel charade of its beginning.
But Part D's bad start isn't just another illustration of the administration's trademark incompetence. It's also an object lesson in what happens when the government is run by people who aren't interested in the business of governing.
So what we got was a drug program set up to serve the administration's friends and its political agenda, not the alleged beneficiaries. Instead of providing drug coverage directly, Part D is a complex system of subsidies to private insurance companies. The administration's insistence on running the program through these companies, which provide little if any additional value beyond what Medicare could easily have provided directly, is what makes the whole thing so complicated. And that complication, combined with an obvious lack of interest in making the system work, is what led to the disastrous start-up.Crud, an Old English word for shit.
All of this is, alas, terribly familiar. As John DiIulio, the former head of Mr. Bush's faith-based initiative, told Esquire, ''What you've got is everything -- and I mean everything -- being run by the political arm.'' Ideology and cronyism take complete precedence over the business of governing.
And that's why when it comes to actual policy as opposed to politics, the Bush administration has turned out to have the reverse Midas touch. Everything it gets its hands on, from the reconstruction of Iraq to the rescue of New Orleans, from the drug benefit to the reform of the C.I.A., turns to crud.
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